Between 1999 and 2002, French historian and art critic Raphael Cuir hosted a web-TV show called Memoires Actives on Canalweb. His guests were prominent personalities of European art – curators, philosophers, writers and artists. Each of them was invited to answer this simple yet “monumental” question : “Why is there art rather than nothing?”
The answers are now collected in a volume going by the same title (Pourquoi y a-t-il de l’art plutôt que rien?, Paris, Archibooks + sautereau éditeur, 2009). The book is, of course, in French, as is this short video-interview with the author:
“All in all”, Cuir writes in his introduction to the book, “by rephrasing the famous question, the ultimate metaphysical question, I asked the art world the question that Leibniz, for instance, posed to the world as a whole: ‘why is there anything rather than nothing?’ and Heidegger to existence itself: “Why is there the being instead of nothing?'”
The diverse and stimulating contributions to this book range from claims of the nihilistic nature of art (J. Baudrillard) or of art as a manifestations of the void (C. Millet), to meditations on art as the innermost essence of humankind (G. Lista) which at the same time transcends human existence (T. Todorov) and paradoxically escapes nothingness by creating value out of “almost nothing” (Orlan). Despite the seriousness of Cuir’s enquiry, the book manages to strike – thanks to its aphoristic format – the right balance between readability and depth.